“Gone Home” is a first person adventure exploration title developed by The Fullbright Company. On the day of June 7, 1995, Kaitlin Greenbriar returns home from abroad to find her home without any of her family members inside. With only a note on the door, left by her sister Sam, imploring her not to investigate what has happened, you the player must discover what unfolded within the walls. By piecing journal entries and an assortment of notes, the story begins to weave a tale of two star-crossed lovers determined to be side by side no matter what.
[WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS WILL BE DISCUSSED]
After stitching everything together, Kaitlin discovers that her 18-year-old younger sister, Sam Greenbriar, had fallen in love with JROTC cadet Yolanda “Lonnie” DeSot. Bonding over punk rock concerts and playing Street Fighter, the pair grew more romantically involved as time went on. However, when Sam’s parents caught wind of the relationship, they forbade her from ever seeing Lonnie again, in large part because of their religious beliefs and refusal to accept their daughter as lesbian. When Lonnie announced she was being shipped out to begin her service with the military, Sam was heartbroken and couldn’t accept their relationship would likely end forever. Their story could have ceased there, had it not been for Lonnie’s last-minute decision. After a long day of riding the bus taking her toward her draft, Lonnie decides to get off at Salem and phone Sam from a pay phone. When Sam answers, Lonnie announces that she wants nothing more than to be with her, and asks Sam if she can drive her car all the way to Salem and begin a new life with one another. In a flash, Sam agrees, packing up her belongings and leaving her old life behind.
So we got the happy ending. Lonnie and Sam’s love survived, they drove away from Sam’s homophobic parents and determined they would start their lives as a couple somewhere else. But one question stems out of this happy ending we’re provided: “What now?” Lonnie has given up her future in the army to be with her girlfriend Sam, and Sam vice versa has given up finishing high school. Their future jointly hinges on that single impulsive decision, and how their story could roll out may be left only to chance.
“Gone Home” may not entirely be a story about “true love”, so much as it is about “young love.” When you’re young and in love, you’re bound to make a plethora of rash decisions you’ve put zero thought in to. And as cute as it is to see the lesbian couple of this story stay together, running away is definitely a rash decision. When I was finished playing, I was both relieved and ecstatic the developers had chosen to give this pair of lovers their “happy ending” with one another. But after sitting down and probing their story around in my mind, the more I began to question if that truly was meant to be a happy ending, or specifically created to be a “real-world” ending. LGBT teens who have had to deal with homophobic family members often make similar hasty decisions in a bid to escape. 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBT, with a majority of them having been forced out of home by their family because of their sexual orientation. And while Sam and Lonnie chose to leave home, instead of being forced out of it, they could end up in the same boat: homeless and without direction.
Now don’t get me wrong, I entirely support the notion that if your family can’t accept who you are, and refuse to change their mind on the matter, you need to get away from that hostility. But Sam and Lonnie’s decision to run away wasn’t a planned out attempt, they did it on a whim and threw caution to the wind. Without any kind of safety blanket to catch the mistakes they’re bound to make in their youth, will their love for one another be enough to keep them going? If you think about it, maybe this story isn’t entirely about the problems LGBT youth face in being accepted. Perhaps, this is also a story about being young and in the real world.
What’s even worse is that their relationship could falter entirely, forcing the pair to part ways and prompting Sam to return home to her homophobic parents. Ironic that they believe themselves to be the proper judge of who Sam should love, considering it’s revealed that the mother could be having an affair. Yet, that’s not going to matter if Sam is forced to make a return. She’ll have no choice but to deal with her parents’ manipulation into believing what she did was wrong, therefore instilling the belief that her love interests are “wrong” as well. This could tragically lead to another rash decision that happens far too often in our modern-day: suicide.
However, this is entirely open to interpretation, as all the player is left with at the end is “the car driving off into the sunset.” We all love that scene in the movies, seeing our heroes together and ready to take on whatever the world will throw their way. Yet, we may never truly know what happens after that sun has vanished beneath the horizon. Maybe Lonnie and Sam get married and begin a wonderful life with a new family of their own. Maybe they just end up another statistic. At the end of the day, regardless of how their story turns out, “Gone Home” leaves us all with one clear message: parents should learn to accept their sons and daughters for who they are, so Sam and Lonnie’s story will one day never have to be told again.